Do you like writing email or letters?
Do you remember the joy of receiving a beautiful letter, and sending one in return?
If so, this post is all about spreading your joy, and helping turn your writing skills to letters asking people to support your nonprofit.
How to write clearly and persuasively
What to put in your letter
How to send your letter
Making it easy for people give: The Remit Envelope
|What is it? An appeal letter is a letter you send to donors to ask for money.||When to do it:Quarterly or yearly around December.|
|You’ll need:Sense of timing, Successful letter samples, Two pairs of fresh eyes on your letter, Up-to-date donor database, and Solid systems of cultivation and stewardship.||What to do: Write your letter, get people to look it over, and consider printing it out in batches at your office, rather than sending it to a mail house. You can also send letters to targeted donor groups, to experiment with what works and what doesn’t in terms of length, wording, timing, etc.|
Different kinds of donors
What makes an effective letter
When to send a letter
Writing a letter is not the most effective way to get money. You may get a 4-5% donation rate on your appeal letters. However, for some nonprofits, this is the way to get money in the door four to six times a year.
What are your standards?
Have you ever written a paper letter? Why did you write it? What did you want to convey? Think about that for a moment.
Even if the answer is no, do you like getting real letters or cards in the mail?
What makes a bad piece of mail for you? Is it a form letter? Is it written poorly? Is it sent in a standard envelope with just an indicia instead of a real stamp? Do you have any idea who it’s from? Worse, does it just seem like a generic thing, randomly sent to your house?
What makes a good piece of mail, for you? Is it personal? Is it asking you well-thought out questions? Is it written on heavier paper? What else does it have? Pictures? A request for you to write back?
You see, you already know what makes a good letter. You’d be surprised how many people think the same way you do. They want to get a personal letter, tailored to their interests. They want to know you were thinking of them, personally, when you wrote it. They want to know you care. And this is how your donors will respond best when you send them a letter.
In your donor database system, it’s important to keep track of why your supporters give. Are they Devouts, giving because it is the Christian thing to do? Are you dealing with a person who is a Communitarian, who gives for the good of the community? Has the mission touched their lives in a personal way, and they want to give back for what they feel they have received? If you remember, there are seven types of donors, outlined in Chapter 4. If you can separate your donors in your database based on why they give, you’ll be in a fantastic place to cultivate these supporters for major gifts. And the mailings which you put together can be targeted to speak directly to their personal interests.
Test Your Ideas
To get a bulk mail discount at the post office, you’ll have to have a 150 piece minimum. So ideally, separate your donors into groups at least this large. Send out 150 letter batches, testing messages, motivations, and see who responds. It can be tempting to just send out one big batch and be done with it, but you are going to have less of a return if you don’t personalize your letters along the lines of why donors give. Also, the fewer you send out at a time, the more likely it is that you’ll have time to go over each letter and reduce errors.
Often the winter will be the best time to get money from an appeal, because this time of year has people feeling more charitable. Into the fourth quarter of the year, many people with financial means have already worked with their accountants to determine how much they need to contribute to a worthy cause in order to reduce their tax obligations. Each time you have a deadline to get a letter mailed, work backwards, and start early. If you have a large list, remember it takes at least two weeks to get the letter written, the letter printed, and mailed. If you’re working with a mailhouse, go to them at least 6 weeks in advance to see when they can fit it into their schedule. If you have a small list of about 150 names, you can get a mailing out the door in two to three days.
Writing Your Letter
Now, on to writing your letter. Writing persuasively is easy. Just think about the last time you told someone about how much you love the mission of your organization. What did you say? Were they as excited at the end of it as you are? If so, write down what you said. For instance:
|Damion:“Hey Georgiana, I heard you were involved with EarthShare. Tell me about that.”
Georgiana: “I love Earthshare! They help environmental nonprofits all over the country do workplace giving, so in a way, they help get companies to give back to the environment. I’m volunteering to write their newsletter this month.”
|Andrew:“What did you think about that island that sunk because of global warming, was it Tuvalu?”
LaTonya: “Yes, it was. This whole country is now evacuating to New Zealand, and it’s going to make them lose their culture. But I gave to a nonprofit which is doing something about it. They’re called “Coalition for Tuvalu” and they’re offering American land to displaced Tuvaluans, to help them preserve their culture and identity. They’re also going to Tuvalu and seeing if they can build it up, add dirt and trees to the island to keep it above water.”
The point of these examples was to show you how you can distill a nonprofit mission or an issue down to two or three sentences, and these sentences should be in the beginning of your letter. You need to tell your readers immediately who you are, what you want, and why they should give. The rest of the letter will just convince them of this first paragraph. You need to tap into their greatest needs, and their greatest fears.
If you’d like to learn how to write a stunning direct mail appeal, check out this webinar, September 4th.
and stay tuned for part 2 & 3, how to write your appeal, and how to send your appeal letter.